Triggering of Article 50 will be end of the month, PM insists

Darren McCaffrey, Political Correspondent

Theresa May will not trigger Article 50, the process of leaving the European Union, until the end of the month.

The Brexit bill passed through Parliament late on Monday.

There was speculation that the Prime Minister would move immediately to start Brexit in a statement to the Commons on Tuesday, after gaining legal authority.

But her official spokesman poured cold water over the rumours, telling reporters that the PM had always said she would trigger Article 50 by the end of March.

He added: "I've said 'end' many times but it would seem I didn't put it in capital letters strongly enough."

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The most likely date for the historic move will be in the last week of this month.

The development came as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to stage a second independence referendum before the expected date for UK withdrawal from the EU in spring 2019.

But the PM's spokesman insisted that the surprise announcement had not had a bearing on the timing of Article 50.

Wednesday and Thursday this week are viewed as politically sensitive as it would coincide with elections in the Netherlands, where the anti-EU PVV party of Geert Wilders is challenging for a share in power.

Triggering Article 50 next week could be seen to overshadow the special summit of the remaining 27 member states in Rome on 25 March to mark the 60th anniversary of the European Union.

The PM's European counterparts had been prepared for her to make an announcement this week, with 6 April pencilled in as the date for a meeting of the 27 other EU leaders to respond to the situation - a gathering which will now be pushed back until later that month.

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